|Hybrid parentage||Honeycrisp and Zestar Apple|
|Origin||University of Minnesota, United States, 2008|
Minneiska or SweeTango (brand name) apples are a cultivar (cultivated variety) of apple (Malus domestica) developed by the University of Minnesota in 2000 and first sold in the US in 2009. It is a hybrid of two other apples varieties the university developed: the popular Honeycrisp (the “mother”) and the early-ripening Minnewasheta (brand name Zestar!, the “father” or pollinator). The name SweeTango is a brand name of the Minneiska apple, and is a registered trademark owned by the University of Minnesota. Like the Honeycrisp, Minneiskas have much larger cells than most apples, which shatter when bitten to fill the mouth with juice.
It is a pinkish apple consisting of a yellow background that is intermittent with red coloration. The surface of the apple has several distinguishing visual characteristics, with freckle-like white lenticels. This variety is also prone to exhibit some net-like russeting in certain seasons.
Minneiskas have a texture similar to Honeycrisp with a slightly tart and citric quality. The name SweeTango is a portmanteau of the words sweet and tangy.
Minneiska apples are harvested in late August and early September, and are seasonally available for only a few months. They're sold at retailers across the US and eastern Canada, and can be purchased online subject to shipping restrictions.
In 2000, the new variety, known during development by the identifier MN 1914, was created by the University of Minnesota's breeding program at their Horticultural Research Center's 80-acre (32 ha) farm near Victoria, Minnesota.
In 2006, Pepin Heights Orchards formed a cooperative of 45 growers named Next Big Thing, appointed Peppin Heights Orchards owner Dennis Courtier as its chairman, and sublicensed the use of the Meneisko variety to the co-op.
In 2007, the Regents of the University of Minnesota trademarked the word SweeTango, and the first commercial Minneiska apple trees were planted. By January 2007, Next Big Thing had sold memberships worth $380,000, had 30 investors, and was seeking to raise an additional $630,000.
In 2008, the variety was patented by the university, the same year that their US patent on the Honeycrisp expired. US plant patents are granted for 20 years from the date of application, and exclude others from asexually producing a plant, using the plant, or selling the plant except as authorized by the patent holder.
In 2009, a limited number of apples were sold in stores.
By 2013, the variety was available at stores across the United States and eastern Canada.
The University of Minnesota awarded exclusive marketing rights to grow, have others grow, and sell the Minneiska apple variety and any mutations to Minnesota's largest apple orchard, Pepin Heights Orchards.
Pepin Heights established a 45-member grower's cooperative (47 as of 2011) named Next Big Thing. The apple could not be grown by non-members, and members, who pay royalties on producing trees, can sell the apple only through the cooperative. The practice, called “managed release”, has attracted criticism due to its development through a public research institution. A lawsuit challenging the legality of the University of Minnesota selling exclusive rights to the variety was decided in a 2012 ruling that the agreement was legal, and that “Minnesota’s antitrust and monopoly laws do not apply to its land-grant university”. However, other legal claims were settled between the parties, with the plaintiffs paying $25,000 in legal fees to Pepin Heights Orchards, and an allowance was made for smaller growers to grow up to 2,000 Minneiska trees, limited to 100,000 per state, as long as the apples are sold only in direct-market channels, and not pooled for wholesale market. The numbers are to be increased to 3,000 trees per orchard, and 150,000 per state, in 2017.
Trademark and Patent
Patent No.: US PP18,812 P3 says it was obtained on May 13, 2008 by inventors David S. Bedford and James J. Luby. The varietal denomination "Minneiska" has a Latin name of Malus domestica and its patent says in part ”Asexual reproduction of the new cultivar was first accomplished by means of budding and grafting by the inventors in Excelsior, Minnesota.”
It further says of the new apple variety "Minneiska was selected for its unique combination of fruit traits. Of particular importance is its early ripening season, its very crisp and juicy texture, and its unusually long storage life for an early ripening variety."
The main feature distinguishing 'Minneiska' from other early ripening varieties known to the inventor is the longer time that its fruit can be stored with little change in texture or flavor.
'Minneiska' fruit have a storage life of 3 to 4 months in refrigeration compared to one or two months for other common commercial early season varieties we have observed including 'State Fair' (not patented), 'Arends' (U.S. Plant Pat. No. 2,800), and 'Minnewashta'.
The Patent compares this new apple style to the state fruit of Minnesota, the Honeycrisp apple “'Minneiska' has an early ripening season with fruit ripening occurring approximately the first week of September in Excelsior, Minnesota. Ripening time is slightly after 'Minnewashta', and approximately two to three weeks before 'Honeycrisp'”
The Patent further shows that the new apple variety has characteristics superior to the Honeycrisp apple (its "mother") “'Minneiska' is readily distinguished from its parent 'Honeycrisp' in that the fruit of 'Minneiska' ripen approximately two to three weeks earlier.”
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- Pepin Heights Orchard YouTube interview and facility tour with Dennis Courtier, owner of Pepin Heights Orchards and chairman of the Meneisko grower's cooperative Next Big Thing.
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